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  • In Memoriam: Robert Steven Ackley
  • Carol LaSasso, PhD , Wendy D. Hanks, PhD , and Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, PhD

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It is with a heavy heart that we inform the audiology and deaf education communities of the sudden passing of Robert Steven Ackley, PhD, a professor in the Department of Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences at Gallaudet University, on June 2, 2013, in Fort Collins, CO. Memorial services were held in June for Dr. Ackley in Fort Collins and at Gallaudet University, in Washington, DC.

Dr. Ackley had a long, distinguished career as a teacher of deaf students, audiologist, clinical supervisor, researcher, and graduate educator. He developed the fourth clinical doctoral (AuD) program in audiology in the country in 2003 and the first-of-its-kind post-AuD PhD program in 2005 at Gallaudet. Dr. Ackley served as department chairperson, director of the AuD and PhD programs, and director of the Electrophysiology Laboratory at Gallaudet and served as co–project director for four 4-to-5-year U.S. Office of Special Education Programs grants to support the AuD and PhD programs at Gallaudet.

Dr. Ackley earned a PhD in communication disorders from the University of Colorado in 1984, an MEd in deaf education from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in 1972, and a psychology degree from Cornell College in 1968. He attended Gallaudet as a graduate student from 1969 to 1970. A fluent ASL signer, Dr. Ackley began his professional career working as coordinator of communication services at the Maryland School for the Deaf. He then spent 27 years in Colorado, where he taught at the Community College of Denver, the University of Denver, the University of Colorado, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado. He was chairman of the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Northern Colorado from 1992 to 1997. He also worked as an audiologist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Denver, and with two audiology practice and research groups. Since 2000, Dr. Ackley had been a professor of audiology at Gallaudet.

Known and respected for his research in electrophysiology, Dr. Ackley had recently conducted research on hearing health among Native American and Alaskan Native people, and was about to embark on a 1-year sabbatical to develop research collaborations and protocols with the Ojibwe Nation (Minnesota) in an effort to gather and analyze data related to its members’ hearing health. This research initiative was to be sustained for several years by Dr. Ackley’s doctoral students.

In October 2013, the Board of Trustees of the Colorado Academy of Audiology posthumously awarded Dr. Ackley the Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor the CAA can bestow on one of its members. It is given for outstanding achievement over a career in clinical audiology, teaching, research, service to the profession, and service to people with hearing loss. Dr. Ackley qualified in all categories. Additionally, the CAA has created a special award in Dr. Ackley’s honor, which will be known as the Steve Ackley Award for Excellence in Audiology Education. The recipient of this award will be an outstanding educator who emulates Dr. Ackley’s model of mentorship, compassion, and outstanding performance in an educational setting. In addition, the newly published edition of the Cambridge Handbook of Communications Disorders, to which Dr. Ackley contributed, [End Page 481] is dedicated to him: “In memory of R. Steven Ackley: A committed author and audiologist.”

Dr. Ackley will be remembered by his colleagues and students as a warm, funny, and caring friend and mentor. He had the unique ability to make each person feel like his “favorite.” He was devoted to his students, and his office was always filled with students sharing stories, concerns and triumphs, and newly found knowledge. Within hours of the announcement of his passing, Facebook became filled with posts, pictures, and heartwarming stories from students and friends acknowledging his great influence in their lives.

Dr. Ackley was proud of his children: Kate Ackley Zeller (husband, Shawn) and Jonathan Ackley (wife, Brittany). He was a doting grandfather to the loves of his life, Madelyn (age 4) and Luke (age 1), and shared his...


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